I loved this article by Renee Hanlon (July 13, 2022) and decided to share it to you all as written. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Calm your mind with these tips to stop any downward spiral of thoughts.
Everyone knows that thinking before acting is wise but when does our thinking actually become debilitating? With too much thinking, negative thoughts can begin creeping in that shed doubt and procmote fear. Our thinking becomes negative when we begin to focus on all of the what-if scenarios, or we begin to fear a bad outcome with our plans. Since there is no way to predict the future, a person can begin to feel totally out of control. This only intensifies the downward spiral of thoughts. Then, our insecurities and lack of confidence can take hold and squash all our original good ideas and plans.
To be sure, part of the negative what-ifs come from knowing of someone who did have a worst-case scenario. In reality, these cases are rare and typically out of our control. When we focus too much on an undesirable possibility, it has the power to rob us of our joy, action and both our physical and mental health. Think about which causes the most distress—the chance of a worst-case scenario or the definite side effects of overthinking? But we’re here to help with the best tips on how to stop overthinking.
Every day that we are given is a gift that should be enjoyed and lived to its fullest, and overthinking eats away at that precious time. By practicing these 20 ways to stop overthinking, we can end the vicious cycle of spiraling into anxiety.
1. Do a Reality Check
How accurate is your thought, really? You can acknowledge the worst-case scenario but then put it to the test. For example, maybe you fear getting fired because you want to bring up an idea for changing a difficult procedure. How likely is that to really get you fired? Is it possible your boss may like your idea? Has your boss fired others for bringing up suggestions? If your idea isn’t accepted, would you want to quit? If so, that fear of being fired kind of blows right out the window.
2. Take Time To Think Productively
If you are an overthinker, it probably doesn’t make any sense to take more time to think. But it does if you do it right. Often, our thoughts come flying at us in the middle of chaotic times when we can’t process them effectively. If we set aside time, when things are quiet and we can let our minds go, we are more apt to form positive plans and ideas. It’s a good idea to start by meditating on something positive like scripture or a calming mantra. This, in turn, leads to more positive thoughts to deal with a current situation. But watch out! When your mind begins to let in any fear or doubt, it’s time for a distraction. Recognize that your initial thoughts are good and will allow you to take action and call out the creeping fear or doubt as a lie.
3. Go for a Walk
Physical exercise is good for stress in general as it can be a way to clear your head. A nice side benefit is that walking releases feel-good endorphins so you will start to feel better with the first step. Walking is also a distraction that gets you away from your current situation and can allow productive thoughts to enter in. If you don’t like walking, try another healthy hobby like gardening. The key is to get out of your normal routine.
If you want to learn how to stop overthinking, start looking at those around you. Volunteering to help someone in need is a great way to shift your focus from yourself to another person. There is no time to think of your own situation when you are focusing on someone else. Plus, when you help someone else it always feels good emotionally. It can even give you a better perspective on your own life when you see what others are going through.
5. Breathe Deeply
Overthinking brings up a lot of anxiety which also leads to physical symptoms like a racing heart. Take time to breathe deeply. Take at least ten deep breaths, counting slowly as you go. Concentrate on your breaths until you feel your body responding. This deep breathing gives a sense of calm that can alleviate stress symptoms.
6. Count Your Blessings
It’s always good to think about all of the positive things that you have or are going on in your life. Start with the basics first. Food, shelter and clothes are of the utmost importance but tend to be forgotten in the grand scheme of things. This might then progress to thinking about other blessings like friends, family, a good job or even a huge success. Our realities are often better than what our own negative thoughts tell us.
7. Forgive And Forget
Sometimes overthinking comes from not letting go of our mistakes that happened in the past. Was a lesson learned from the mistake? Then it’s time to forgive yourself and move on with self-compassion! It’s not healthy to keep rehashing what should have been done. Instead, look at the present and toward the future with your updated mindset.
As well as forgiving yourself, sometimes you need to forgive another person who has hurt you. Once you forgive someone, make sure to also truly forget. It doesn’t help anyone to hold onto grudges and the negative thoughts that come with it.
8. Acknowledge What You Can’t Control
In any given situation, there will be things that you don’t have control of. Acknowledge those things and realize that though you can’t change them, you can deal with them the best you can. You may have immediate fear or feel awful about a situation at the onset. However, telling yourself that you will get through it or it won’t last forever will go a long way in controlling the fixation of your thoughts.
9. Change Your Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
If you think you’re going to fail, you just may when all of your time is spent thinking of pitfalls that then lead to inaction. Instead, start positive thinking. Picture yourself at the end of a dreaded event. Imagine yourself walking to your car after a job interview or important social event and the feeling of relief that you have. Put yourself there, in your thoughts, instead of at the beginning. Know that you are going to have interactions and that you are going to do your best.
10. Be Yourself
Stop worrying about what others think about you. What makes anyone else’s opinion about you more valid? Chances are they aren’t even thinking about you in any great detail. They are probably worrying more about what others are thinking about them! If you think that you have a valid reason for changing something about yourself, then work on a solution. Worrying about what others think doesn’t solve anything at all.
11. Get Others Off The Pedestal
Think of all the people that you are intimidated by which cause you to overthink your actions. It’s time to take them off the pedestal! As humans, we are all much more alike than it may appear. That executive that you fear may look intimidating in the fancy suit but it’s just underwear underneath.
12. Take Action
Overthinking a situation and having fear of doing the wrong thing will keep you from doing anything at all. Instead, do something to help your situation. There is power in action!
13. Write Your Own Story
For positive change, write your own story that empowers you instead of paralyzing you. Do you ever notice that when you set goals for yourself, you are often able to fill them? Give yourself clear direction and you won’t let anything or thoughts stand in your way.
14. Live in the Moment
Focusing on the here and now is much better than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. We have more than we need on our plates in one day let alone dwelling on the past that we can’t change or the future that we can’t predict.
Although we do need some goals and plans for the future, we can’t overthink all the different scenarios. We can be quite adaptable when plans have to change. Basically, plan for the best and be flexible when things need to be changed. There is no way to have a different good plan for every possible outcome.
15. Identify Your Triggers
What things typically cause you to begin having negative thoughts? Why? Is there a deeper fear? How can you let go of what you can’t control? Acknowledging what your triggers are will help you to find specific ways to cope with them.
16. Change Your Path
If there is something in your life that you know is wrong for you, stop dwelling on it in your thoughts. Instead, change your behavior or situation for a better outcome. The first step in changing a behavior is to write out a plan. Then, work to bring your plan to fruition which will take up your mental space in a healthy way.
17. Write Down Your Thoughts
Journaling is a good way to keep track of your thoughts. It helps when you can write them down and actually see them on paper. Then, logically write down a solution to help you through your situation.
If you are having conflict with a person, write them a letter. You don’t necessarily have to send it but getting your thoughts down is a healthy exercise to analyze a situation and better communicate with that person.
18. Make a List of Positive Outcomes
Think of all the things that could go right in any given situation. Make that a habit and there won’t be any room for negative thoughts. In reality, a good plan has more potential for a positive outcome than a negative one. The whole view of the glass half full or half empty is what tends to control your mind. When you don’t know the outcome, why would you want to unnecessarily spend time worrying about what could be a bad outcome?
19. Forget Perfection
Don’t wait for perfection for action. This only leads to stalling out instead of healthy progress. When we overthink, we can always find something that needs to be changed—even if it doesn’t! Perfection is all about opinion and rarely will two people view perfection the same. All that we can ever ask of ourselves is to do our best with what we have.
20. Ask for Input
If a friend is having a hard time, you’re likely quick to lend a listening ear and offer advice that is practical, as well as extremely empathetic. You deserve that type of thoughtful feedback as well! After going to someone you look up to for advice when you can’t stop overthinking on your own, their compassionate (and less emotionally-charged) perspective from being outside of the situation could provide you with exactly what you need to take the first step forward into freedom.